Friday, August 20, 2010

Day Eighteen

Day 18: 19 Aug 2010

Realized -- almost too late -- that I was ON the Strip and the location Kevin sent was just BEHIND the Strip. So I ran like fuck, dodging late-night drunks and packs of Asian college kids as I moved. I made it to the spot at just midnight.

The people element had thinned out quite a bit -- here there were a few quiet, shambling twentysomething drunks in $400 shoes. They -- almost all of them -- sat on curbs and stoops and looked at the pavement. One kept moving his hands through a nearby shrub. It was as if he'd found a hundred-dollar bill there once, years ago, and really hoped he'd find another now that he really needed it.

I knew I'd be easier to find here -- I was on my feet, for one. One of the drunks, a tiny Chinese girl, maybe 20, looked up.

"Youxia," she said quietly, grinning.

"You're Kevin's man on the ground?"

"Not a man, obviously. But yeah. Come on. Let's go somewhere where we can talk."

* * *

We ended up further off the Strip, where even the sad-eyed drunks vanished.

There was nothing around in sight but fenced-off vacant lots, some filled with junk and forgotten cars, others merely sand. Crazily, there was a bus bench next to the road, as if someone would actually need to get here -- to nowheresville -- right now. She sat and looked at me.

"You can stand if you want, but I'm not going to bite."

I sat next to her, and she stuck out her hand.

"Cassie," she said.

"Travis," I said, shaking her hand.

"Well, not in Vegas, you're not. Here, you're Robert Lincoln, staying at the Stratosphere."

Cassie handed me a keycard and a wallet -- the ID was from California, and it had my picture, but Robert Lincoln's name.

"I mean, they're gonna find you anyway, but this might slow 'em up."

"Uh, OK. Still don't know who 'they' are."

"Soon. Tomorrow, in fact. I'll pick you up in the Stratosphere lobby at 2 a.m., and you'll get more answers than you know what to do with."

Cassie smiled and stood up.

"Wait -- that's it? Just, meet me tomorrow?"

"'Fraid so, big guy," she said. "Love to talk more. But I gotta get to work, and you look like you haven't slept in days. Get some rest, yeah? I need your brain on full alert tomorrow."

And with that, Cassie turned and walked away, leaving me confused and exhausted on a bus bench in an urban wasteland.

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